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Notable Oregonians: Abigail Scott Duniway - Women's Rights Pioneer

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Abigail Scott Duniway,

Abigail Scott Duniway, 1834-1915

Abigail Jane Scott was born in 1834 and raised on a family farm near Groveland, Illinois. Her parents, John Tucker Scott and Anne Roelofson, led the family on the Oregon Trail in 1852. Tragically, her mother and youngest brother died along the route. Abigail, age 17, recorded the difficult crossing in her journal.

 

She taught school in Cincinnati (Eola), Oregon before marrying Benjamin C. Duniway in 1853. Her husband's crippling accident in 1862 required Abigail to provide the sole support for her family, which included several children. She responded by teaching school and operating a women's hat shop in Albany, Oregon for several years. The experience heightened Duniway's awareness of the legal inequalities endured by women.

 

The Duniway family moved to Portland in 1871 after Benjamin accepted a job at the U.S. Customs Service. Abigail began publishing the New Northwest, a weekly newspaper that ran from 1871 to 1887 and demanded equal rights for women. In 1873 she helped found the Oregon State Women Suffrage Association. Duniway lectured regularly around the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere. Her efforts as leader of the campaign for women's voting rights in the region helped women get the vote in Idaho in 1896, Washington in 1910, and Oregon in 1912. Interestingly, Abigail's brother, Harvey W. Scott, publisher of the Portland Oregonian newspaper, was an outspoken opponent of women's suffrage.

 

Duniway died in 1915, a year after writing her life story in Path Breaking. She also authored two other novels and a book of poems.

 

Also see Harvey Scott and Duniway's handwritten Oregon women's suffrage proclamation from 1912 as well as a related learning resource.

 

(Sources: Feminist Voices and Visions | Dictionary of Oregon History) Revised 1/2013

 

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